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East Florida Seminary Documents

P. Marlin May 2016

East Florida Seminary and barracks in Gainesville, Florida.

East Florida Seminary, a brief history

The Legislature of the State of Florida, in a legislative act known as the Seminary Act of 1851, provided for two institutions of higher learning in Florida, one east and one west of the Suwannee River. The East Florida Independent Institute at Ocala became the East Florida Seminary (EFS) in January 1853. The onset of the Civil War brought that school to a close in 1861. Meanwhile, James Henry Roper, an educator from North Carolina, built a school called the Gainesville Academy on Northeast 1st Street. Also a State Senator from Alachua County, Roper offered his land and school to the State of Florida in exchange for the relocation of the East Florida Seminary to Gainesville. The offer was agreed to and in 1866 East Florida Seminary reopened, this time in Gainesville. Roper would serve as the Seminary's principal for the first two years.2

The Seminary enrolled students of all ages until a minimum age of thirteen and a maximum age twenty was established by Principal Edwin Cater in 1877. Eventually the male students were put under military regulation and after 1881 the war department assigned an officer to discipline the cadets, who were required to wear a uniform everyday except Saturday. The East Florida Seminary, along with three other schools, were merged together to become the University of Florida as a result of the Buckman Act in 1905. 1

Epworth Hall, academic building of East Florida Seminary.

Epworth Hall today, part of the First Methodist Church property.

Plaque at Epworth Hall indicates the dates the University of Florida (1853) and East Florida Seminary (1866) were established. The University of Florida considers its beginning to be in 1853, the same date the East Florida Seminary was established in Ocala before moving to Gainesville in 1866.

Epworth Hall (photos above) was originally the East Florida Seminary academic building. This structure was built in 1884 when the original wooden building burned down. It was here that University of Florida classes were held while the new academic buildings were being constructed on a new campus. When the University of Florida relocated in 1911, Epworth Hall became part of the historic First United Methodist Church property.

EFS Class of 1901. (UF Digital Collections)

Advertisement for East Florida Seminary found in the book Eden of the South by Carl Webber.


Documents from EFS history

The following is a series of historical documents from the East Florida Seminary collection preserved by the George A. Smathers Library on the University of Florida campus.






Book of Autographs

The above 1884 'book of autographs' belonged to Mary E. Zetrouer (signature below) while she attended East Florida Seminary. The book includes notes and autographs from her classmates and school administrators. The following are images from inside the autograph book.

As a side note, Mary Ewen Zetrouer Dreher lived to be almost 100 years old. The photo left (source: shows Mary seated with her children and grandchildren around her.





Commencement Programs


Commencement Sermon


Other Documents

1861 Exhibition when the Seminary was in Ocala, Florida.

A humorous note to Walter states "In your chimney of friends, put me down as a brick"

This list includes Edith Baird of the Baird Family

The obituary of long time EFS principal, Edwin P. Cater.



1 Honoring the Past, Shaping the Future by Carl Van Ness

2 Roper Park by Melanie Barr Gainesville Sun

George A. Smathers Library Special and Area Studies Collections